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Article

Asia: Forum-Asia report reveals coporations increasingly perpetrate violations against land, environmental and Indigenous rights defenders

'[Report] Defending in Numbers: A Message of Strength from the Ground 2019 – 2020', 30 June 2021

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In the past two years, HRDs across Asia endured hostility online and offline and have seen their families and loved ones increasingly subjected to harassment and threats. From 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2020, FORUM-ASIA recorded 1,073 cases of violations committed against HRDs in 21 countries in Asia. The violations included, but were not limited to, physical violence, intimidation and threats, online attacks, vilification, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, and killings. At least 3,046 among HRDs, their family members, NGOs, and communities were affected as result. The countries with the highest number of violations recorded were India (177 cases), China (160 cases), and Vietnam (120 cases).

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From 2019 to 2020, judicial harassment was the most common violation committed with 535 cases, accounting for nearly half of the total violations documented. In many cases, HRDs faced multiple charges at the same time. Judicial harassment was followed by arrest and detention, with 422 cases, many of which were arbitrary. Governments often committed these two types of violations in order to silence and criminalise HRDs for expressing their dissent, or to prevent them from continuing their work by means of long trials and imprisonment.

Intimidation and threats remained prevalent with 306 cases recorded, including at least 29 cases of death threats. In several cases, the threat was made against family members of the HRD. Moreover, physical violence was documented in 268 cases, of which HRDs died as a result of the violence in an alarming 71 cases, claiming the lives of 82 individuals across 10 countries. FORUM-ASIA also recorded the deaths of four HRDs who were serving a jail term, or while in police custody.

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As many as 205 cases were documented against land, environmental, and indigenous peoples' rights defenders. Corporations were the perpetrator of violations against this group of HRDs in an increasing number of cases, oftentimes in collusion with state actors... non-state actors were the perpetrators in a rising number of cases documented, in particular business actors, including corporations from the agribusiness and extractive sectors, or those working in large-scale development projects, and extremist groups. Concerningly, state and non-state actors oftentimes colluded in committing violations against HRDs, creating an environment where HRDs were constantly at risk, and their safety was further undermined by the denial of state protection each time defenders sought it.

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